The Status Of The “Sweet Cakes By Melissa” Christian Bakery-Gay Wedding Case In Oregon
Readers of this newsletter may have seen in the news that on July 2, 2015 – the week after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized gay marriage nationwide, Brad Avakian, Oregon’s BOLI (Bureau of Labor and Industries) Commissioner, issued his Final Order in a BOLI case entitled In the Matter of Melissa Elaine Klein, dba Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
Commissioner Avakian ruled that the respondents in the Sweet Cakes case, Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Christian owners and operators of a bakery, violated Oregon law and must pay the complainants, a lesbian couple, a total of $135,000 in damages because, pursuant to their sincerely held Christian beliefs, they refused to bake a cake for the complainants’ same -sex wedding. Commissioner Avakian ruled that the Kleins violated Oregon’s “public accommodations” law, which, among other things, prohibits a place of “public accommodation” from discriminating against a person based on their sexual orientation.
The Kleins appealed the BOLI decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Their brief states: “One of America’s founding principles is that state action compelling a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is tyrannical.” (Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (June 12, 1779).)
Given the important free exercise of religion constitutional issues and the national attention this case has received, further appeals, perhaps as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, seem likely.
A virtually identical case, Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, was decided by the Colorado Court of Appeals in 2015. The court held, contrary to the Kleins’ position, that the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment did not protect the Christian baker’s refusal to sell a wedding cake for a same sex marriage, and that his conduct violated Colorado’s public accommodations law. The Colorado Supreme Court refused to accept the baker’s appeal of the case. He then filed a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that the Court decide the federal constitutional issue raised by the case, which is identical to that raised by Oregon’s Sweet Cakes by Melissa case. The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will exercise its discretion to take the Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop case from Colorado.
Readers can monitor this issue through the Religious Law Update Blog on the top of the Home page of www.kaempflawfirm.com.